Discovery Museum to add rooftop deck to renovation

Posted: March 21, 2013

The Winchester Star

This rendering from Reader & Schwartz Architects of Winchester shows how the roof addition would appear at the museum.

WINCHESTER — The Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum will rise to higher elevations by taking to the roof.

A garden and observation deck will be added on the roof of the three-story building at the new site, 9 W. Cork St. The city granted permission this month for the renovation.

“We don’t have an outdoor space, so the roof gives us that,” said executive director Mary Braun. “The views are amazing.”

Also, the area on top of the building gives the museum another 4,800 square feet to use for programs and special activities to add to the 14,500 square feet of inside space, she said.

But it will take an additional four months of renovation time by Howard Shockey & Sons and increase the overall cost, she said. “The estimate for the project is $3.4 million, including the roof, and completion date for the total project is March 2014.”

The building was purchased by the museum from West Cork LLC in April 2012 for $1.15 million with no debt.

Originally, the building was constructed in 1950 to house Schewel Furniture Co., which operated there for 50 years. More recently, the building was used for office space.

The museum’s board of directors deliberated about the roof as far as the additional cost and whether it was structurally sound enough to withstand the renovation, she said. “Studies were conducted to determine parts of the building that needed to be reinforced.”

Once the board made the decision to proceed with the roof project, the request was made and the Winchester Board of Architectural Review approved it.

“The museum’s goal is to raise $1.2 million by Dec. 31,” she said, adding that the rest of the cost has been obtained. “The roof work represents 17 percent of the total museum investment although it offers 25 percent of the new space, a public domain that is unparalleled in the city.”

Plans for the roof

Plans for the roof space include green plantings, moveable boats for vegetables and flowers, educational programs including astronomy, weather and landscape art, and space that can be rented out for weddings, birthdays, etc., she said.

Plans for the roof are being finalized by Reader & Swartz Architects, who also designed the rest of the building.

Renovations to use the roof space will include reinforcing the structure, extending the elevator and stairwell, and adding at least a 6-foot balustrade to encase the area, she said.

“The structural engineer of record has designed additional steel bar joists, and we will strengthen the existing joists,” said Jeff Boehm, vice president of Howard Shockey & Sons and general contractor on the project.

“Our staff will solicit bids, review them and make recommendations to the Discovery Museum,” he said.

In addition, he said his company will self-perform certain portions of the work and provide on-site supervision and management of all selected subcontractors and the work that they put in place.

Community center

And as far as he knows, it will be the first type of rooftop space like this in the area.

This will be a real community center, said Braun, and one of the tallest buildings in the area with the addition.

“This wouldn’t happen without the generosity of the community,” she added. “I hope they will take pleasure in the new museum.”

In the meantime, the museum continues at its present location, 54 S. Loudoun St., opening daily and providing programs, Braun said.

“We are delighted to be in Winchester as an anchor to the Loudoun Street Mall and a magnet for commerce.”

She cites a study published in 2005 by the Association of Children’s Museums that reveals an average spending of $22.87 per person when visiting an area, not including the price of admission. That figures increases to $38.05 for those coming from outside the area.

“The numbers demonstrate that a community that attracts cultural tourists stands to harness significant economic rewards,” she said.

— Contact F.C. Lowe at